No More Broken Hips: Can Palarum End Hospital Falls?

Lebanon, Ohio startup is crafting tech-enabled smart socks to avoid slips
For hospital patients, a fall can cause a major setback. A routine visit could lead to months of treatment and therapy in addition to recovery from the initial illness or surgery. The problem? Sometimes these falls occur simply because of an unfamiliar environment and slippery hospital halls. But what if nurses and caregivers could intervene from the start? Palarum, an emerging startup based in the Cincinnati suburb of Lebanon, is launching the PUP smart sock as the answer — a Bluetooth-based sock that helps caregivers anticipate patient accidents.

“We’re developing wearable textiles that have sensors embedded in the threading and fabrics,” said co-founder and CEO Patrick Baker. “We truly believe we’ve got something that can change lives and make a difference. We’re seeing some outstanding preliminary results and are able to provide analytics that reduce patient falls. We can notify the staff, who are able to respond in real time.”

Baker, a veteran of the medical industry, has 30 years of experience in a variety of medical roles ranging from medic and nurse to manager and director. After years of watching how medication mistakes, surgery problems and infections lead to longer hospital stays than necessary, he decided he wanted to eliminate patient falls from the equation, and the PUP socks were born.

“Patients shouldn’t come to the hospital to be treated for pneumonia, go to the bathroom and fracture a hip — now, they’ve got to go to a nursing home for six weeks because they had a fall at the hospital,” said Baker. “Everyone already gets a pair of socks at the hospital, so why can’t we just make them smart socks? That way, when patients who aren’t supposed to get up without assistance leave their bed, we can notify the staff.”

The same tech can be adapted for physical therapy, telling clinicians when patients in rehab need to adjust their gait. With an innovative combination of Bluetooth technology and fabric, Palarum believes they’ve cracked the code — and investors have responded.

“We take a simple thread, infuse it with elastomers and metal particles and then weave a sock out of it,” said Baker. “As we make the sock, sensors are already there; it’s amazing. Once we were able to successfully build a prototype, we said, ‘OK, let’s go get some money and do this thing right.’ We were able to raise over $8.4 million to launch clinical trials and prove what we think we can achieve.”

Palarum is spreading the word about their socks, partnering with The Ohio State University and other nationally recognized hospitals. They have plans for out-of-state expansion as well, working on pilot programs with major hospital systems in the South and Northeast.

“We’re at The Ohio State University right now doing a clinical study that is going to be one of the largest patient-fall studies ever,” said Baker. “We’re also live at several other sites to evaluate our Smart Sock technology. We’ve got some big names, and when you get the attention of Ohio State, you know you’re onto something pretty major.”

Palarum’s goals are set high, and Baker plans to achieve them from an Ohio base. Born in Mansfield, Baker graduated from Ohio State and spent 17 years in the Ohio Air National Guard. Between his love of the state and the support and resources available in Ohio, he said he’d love nothing more than to see Palarum succeed from his home state.

“I bleed Ohio,” said Baker. “I knew when I was watching Ohio State reruns when I was seven or eight years old that I was getting a degree from Ohio State. I’m very proud to stay here, be local and do everything here in Ohio. We’re doing things nobody else in the world is doing, and I really believe that we can be a mecca for wearable textiles and a magnet to draw the industry to Ohio as we start to launch.”

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